Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ending My Blog

I've been thinking of ending my blog, I think it only causes people trouble and is a way of me drawing attention to myself. I was also planning on creating a new blog instead, but I figured what's the point really? I mean it'd be the exact same as this blog, it'd just 'feel' new. I want to have a place to hash out personal things that I feel about theology without having to constantly sit there fighting off Reformed theology.

My Conclusion right now seems to be: Dogmatics are VERY important, CENTRAL to theology. But the people I engage/engage themselves with my 'theology' (if it's even worth calling that) on Dogmatic issues are not open to a change of opinion. They know the arguments, they don't buy them, that's it. We're both in a sense lost causes to each other, except on peripheral issues or anabaptist bashing we can't find any unity.

So I think I'll merge my Theology blog (this one) and my personal blog (Labarynthine thoughts) into one. Or maybe I'll just discontinue one and change the way I do things. Haven't decided for sure yet...

I also hate how melodramatic I am. As if this blog or anything I write matters to anyone. lol

American Revolution and Catholicism

This is an excerpt from a textbook I'm reading for history this year and I thought it was a funny story, it is ironic how the Presbyterians in essence had "protestant" relics:

“...Storm the city of Quebec, and take control of Canada. This was to be the first major offensive of the Revolutionary War...why Canada, of all places? ... Yankees steeped in the Protestant faith had little trouble drumming up the motivation to invade the stronghold of Catholicism on their northern border... One army chaplain spoke for many when he wrote in his diary: “Had pleasing views of the glorious day of universal peace and spread of the gospel through this vast extended country, which has been for ages the dwelling of Satan, and reign of Antichrist.”...on the Sabbath, Jeremiah Greenman and his fellow volunteers went to meeting under arms. Marching with flags flying into the First Presbyterian Church, they formed two lines and presented their guns. The preacher, after walking through the lines to the rolling of drums, told the soldiers what Moses said to the Lord, “If thy spirit go not with us, carry us not up hence.” The men were moved. After the service, some of the officers convinced the sexton to open the tomb of George Whitefield, the famous revivalist of the Great Awakening, which lay within the church. Whitefield’s body had decomposed in the five years since his death, but some of his clothes remained intact. The inspired zealots cut his collar and wristbands into small pieces which they used as relics to ensure success for their mission” – Ray Raphael “A People’s History of the American Revolution” p. 69-70

long story short, America loses. Moral of the story: get Catholic relics next time :)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

2 Christopher Dawson Quotes I found online that are true

“Of all divisions between Christians, that between Catholics and Protestants is the deepest and the most pregnant in its historical consequences. It is so deep that we cannot see any solution to it in the present period and under existing historical circumstances. But at least it is possible for us to take the first step by attempting to overcome the enormous gap in mutual understanding which has hitherto rendered any intellectual contact or collaboration impossible.”

"on the realization that civilization is insufficient, the fate of civilization rests."

Charitable Theology

I've reached that stage in my blog cycle which seems as inevitable as any economic cycle, where I've decided not to be involved in polemics and accusations.

I just had a conversation with my father that ended us in agreeing that one of us is going to Hell (barring God's mercy). I'm tired of it, I'm much more comfortable saying "fine if God is not merciful I will go to Hell" (that has been the truth of the matter since the beginning).

Really I just want to post thoughts about my growth/catechesis into Catholic philosophy/theology. I like Thomism, and now I know that every Catholic claims to be a Thomist, I can happily reconcile my appreciation for the Jesuits with the Angelic Doctor.

I ordered a book called "The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy" by Etienne Gilson today and I'm excited about it. Hopefully it will continue this process. But I really just want to have a charitable theology. As Hans Urs Von Balthasar said "love alone is credible" and I want to love Jesus, and love the truth. the end.

Realist or Nominalist: Choose

"I was impressed by the argument that "the Church wrote the Bible:" Christianity was preached by the Church before the New Testament was written—that is simply a historical fact. It is also a fact that the apostles wrote the New Testament and the Church canonized it, deciding which books were divinely inspired. I knew, from logic and common sense, that a cause can never be less than its effect. You can't give what you don't have. If the Church has no divine inspiration and no infallibility, no divine authority, then neither can the New Testament. Protestantism logically entails Modernism. I had to be either a Catholic or a Modernist. That decided it; that was like saying I had to be either a patriot or a traitor. " - Peter Kreeft (

A Calvinist TA said to me last night : "But the Roman Church has so much from Paganism, how can you stand it?" I replied "The Reformed Church has so much from Nominalism how can you stand it?" he granted me the point and said "I guess you have to pick your poison". While I see Nominalism as the poison of all modern philosophy leading to Nietzsche, Thomism/Neo-Aristotelianism is the only other realistic option. You must choose. Either be a post-modern perspectivist (like Rob Bell and N.T. Wright) or a Catholic Thomist and recant the Reformation.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Things I love about Calvinism/Reformed Theology

I have met so many Calvinist professors and Teaching Assistants this year that it makes me wonder if it's a work of divine providence (I wish he'd send more Lutherans, I find their theology more tenable).

There are some things I love about this heresy that keep coming through. For example, Calvinists care about truth rather than hurting people's feelings. If you are a Calvinist and heard me call your religion a 'heresy' above, it probably didn't make you flinch because you don't even think Roman Catholicism is a Christian religion so what does it matter to you? Calvinists care about the truth, they believe in the truth of the Word of God and constantly remind me of it. I showed a Reformed TA today how the canon is based on Church authority and he still refrained "But it's the WORD!", the division between the Word of God and the words of even the greatest men is an infinite divide for the Calvinist (and I admire this in a sense I rarely like to admit).

As well, Calvinists actually believe in Original Sin. They believe that if God damned everyone to Hell without offering any salvation because of the Fall he would still be just and worthy of worship. Every orthodox christian should accept that premise but I feel like it's only the Conservative Calvinists and Traditional Catholics who still admit it. God owes nothing to us, we were born dead and in sin, we aren't good, we aren't lovable, but God loves us anyway.

Finally I have to say I like Calvinism's teaching about God's Sovereignty. This is the most tempting part of their theology. Salvation is God's business, it's up to him, in the words of St. Driscoll as they call him "God decides who comes inside his house". This allows a christian to fully embrace the sinfulness of man and the grace of God. Resistible grace while being a proud part of the Patristic and arguably biblical tradition is just weak. God is much cooler if he kicks the door down rather than knocking at the door (Rev 3).

I will not become a Calvinist though, because as appealing as it is in these areas, I still think it's a heresy. But one of the better heresies, not like Eastern Orthodoxy or Anabaptistism. But I don't think I'm allowed to call Orthodoxy a heresy... whoops. Whatever, I said it, in the spirit of Calvin. East Orthodox, pick up some St. Anselm and get on the Papal Supremacy train!

St. Paul's Challenge for Today: Living by the Spirit

"Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." - Galatians 5:16-21 (NRSV)

We are called through our baptism to 'fight under the banner of Christ' (as Rowan Williams likes saying) against the world, the flesh, and the devil. The apostle actually outlines the 3 ways of living presented to us today.

1. The works of flesh: sin. I like that St. Paul is translated here "to prevent you from doing what you want". He knows the struggle against the flesh and that it is what we want.

2. The Law. God's moral precepts without grace and Christ's merit, without the work of the Spirit, basically to be left alone in Original Sin without the possibility of obedience.

3. The Spirit. The solution of St. Paul is life in the Spirit, against the flesh and the law. The freedom to follow Christ in loving God, and bearing one another's burdens. This the apostle calls "the torah of Christ" (Gal. 6:2)

and if that wasn't enough motivation St. Paul's call for imperfect contrition at the end still rings true:

If you do these, you will not inherit the kingdom.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Numbers and the Holy Spirit in Tonight's Mass Readings

"Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, ‘My lord Moses, stop them!’ But Moses said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!’" - Numbers 11:25-29 (NRSV)

I'm glad God's work of salvation is up to the Holy Spirit and not to us.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Mercy of Christ

"One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding* him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into* your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’" - Luke 23:39-43

I think of St. Bernard's phrase that while God has mercy, I have merit. I think of the thief on the cross knowing of his impending death and think of him as a type of all humanity. We either mock Christ, or we beg for mercy.

May I always trust in Christ's mercy alone for my salvation, as the thief on the cross did.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Word Usage In This Blog

I went to and made a word picture of this blog. I'm probably years behind everyone else who found this out, but here it is:

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alt="Wordle: theologyofandrew.blogspot"
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I felt really good about myself when I saw that "Augustine" was the biggest word of all, followed by God, grace, good, works.

Christian Commonality

As I do history of the spread of Christianity I realize more and more how essential 2 things are that all Christians hold in common. They were so important that Abp. Thomas Cranmer said England had officially reformed as a country when the people had learned these 2 things in English/Vernacular.

The Creed, and the Lord's Prayer

It's interesting to me that Abp Rowan Williams 400 years later has agreed that these are the centerpiece of the Christian faith. I'd like to make them more important in my life.

St. Augustine Against The "Unintelligence" (his word not mine) of Faith Alone

"Unintelligent persons, however, with regard to the apostle’s statement: “We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law,” have thought him to mean that faith suffices to a man, even if he lead a bad life, and has no good works. Impossible is it that such a character should be deemed “a vessel of election” by the apostle, who, after declaring that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision,” adds at once, “But faith working through love” … Therefore they possess not the faith by which the just man lives – the faith which works by love in such wise, that God recompenses it according to its works with eternal life … And the apostle himself, after saying, “By grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast;” saw, of course, the possibility that men would think from this statement that good works are not necessary to those who believe, but that faith alone suffices for them; and again, the possibility of men’s boasting of their good works, as if they were of themselves capable of performing them. To meet, therefore, these opinions on both sides, he immediately added, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” … It follows, then, dearly beloved, beyond all doubt, that as your good life is nothing else than God’s grace, so also the eternal life which is the recompense of a good life is the grace of God … Grace is for grace, as if remuneration for righteousness; in order that it may be true, because it is true, that God “shall reward every man according to his works.”" - St. Augustine "On Grace and Free Will" (Ch. 18-20)

For a good blog regarding this see:

If St. Augustine Was Wrong...

This is my Opinion on the matter not a scholarly argument etc. Just bear that in mind when you comment


Catholic patristic scholars since the 1560s have been showing that the Council of Trent's doctrine of justification is the same doctrine of justification held by St. Augustine of Hippo.

"the righteousness of God,— not that whereby He is Himself righteous, but that with which He endows man when He justifies the ungodly." - St. Augustine "On the Spirit and the Letter" Chapter 15

is the constant definition used. Now some folks like Alister McGrath say that poor Augustine didn't have Erasmus' Greek Manuscript (which had mistranslations of it's own) and that iustificare isn't the same as logozomai etc. Basically to short it to the point of triviality: Augustine was wrong, Luther was right. (Ironically another member of McGrath's church has argued that both Augustine and Luther are wrong (N.T. Wright), but there's the "perspicuity of scripture" for you)

But anyone who has read the wikipedia article on Augustine could tell you if Augustine was wrong, pardon my Anglo-Saxon but... Western Christianity is fucked, God is dead, etc...

If the Church which labelled itself as Augustinian for over a millenia was wrong about Original Sin, Predestination, Salvation, Pelagianism, Donatism, etc. Then God's Spirit is so impotent at leading the Church that there's no point in even believing.

That's my opinion. And if you think the Church was wrong about salvation for 1200 years then you might as well just become an Anabaptist and make it 1500 years, or a Mormon and make it 1800 years. Heck why not start your own church and just believe EVERYONE was wrong and it's actually justification by extrinsic interpretative-danced righteousness.

Finally: to Protestants, please give up the title Augustinian if you're just going to say he was wrong about salvation, you can't just pick and choose, even Luther said later in life that reading the bible through the interpretation of Augustine was like pouring milk through a bag of coal. So keep the title and accept infused righteousness, or give it up and keep imputed righteousness...or just remain keep your illogical idea that Augustine somehow taught what Luther taught even though he openly repudiated your doctrines.

I'm gonna regret posting this as all the Reformed will start attacking me like a Jew in the Gaza strip....and if any Jews read this I'm gonna regret posting this.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

More Tolkien and Roman Catholic Stuff

"There cannot be any ‘story’ without a fall – all stories are ultimately about the fall – at least not for human minds as we know them and have them."


"certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with a sense of 'exile'." -J.R.R. Tolkien

I stole the second quote from one of the blogs on my list to the side. But I get from Tolkien 3 main parts of my Catholic understanding of the world.

1. Understanding of Polytheism & Angelology

In the Silmarillion he describes how the Elves went into polytheism and describes the nature of these pseudo-angels or demi-gods and his portrait of the allegorical heavenely hierarchy helped me finally to understand the Catholic heavenly hierarchy without having to resort to claims taught to me by History professors about a mere reflection of the earthly medieval great chain of being.

2. The Fall & Original Perfection

In Catholicism, because the dogma is that Catholics in a state of grace are in a similar state to the pre-fall Adam and Eve, they talk alot more about human perfection than other Christians do. This is a bad thing and a good thing I've found. But in Tolkien I constantly see his emphasis on the fall as a type of divorce between Heaven and Earth, and the Incarnation as a sort of Marriage of the Human and Divine. This is depicted most clearly with the marriage of the Elves and Men.

3. Hope

Tolkien writes: "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work" , and as I re-read it I see more and more things in there like the symbolic mariological type of Galadriel, etc. But overwhelmingly I find the story to be about hope. I feel a connection to Tolkien because they say he was a pessimist who wrote alot about hope. I have a sort of addiction to hope, and as I'm usually in a state of mortal sin, all my salvation is pinned on most days is hope in God's goodness and mercy. I read today in the LOTR "do not abandon your hope. Tomorrow is unknown". In Catholicism Despair is kind of the supreme sin, and the Lord of the Rings definately stresses that greatly (though I don't know if this is actually helping me avoid the theological vice, but it feels good to read about it).

Correction on Karen Armstrong

correction, Karen Armstrong isn't as smart as I thought. She has a bachelor's degree in English and claims to be a religious expert. And she's basically just an ex-nun who is trying to get people not to hate Islam.

Big mistake on my part.

An Interesting Article I Want To Finish Reading

Dawkins is annoying his part probably won't be that great, but Armstrong is (even if super-liberal) really smart, it should be interesting.

Victorian Theology From An Unlikely Source

Guess Who Wrote This:

"I can't love because I am ordered. Least of all can I love One who seems only to make me miserable here to torture me hereafter. Show me that He is good, that He is loveable, and I shall love Him without being told.

But does any preacher show this? He may say that God is good, but he shows Him to be very bad; he may say that God is 'Love', but he shows him to be hate, worse than any hate of man. As the Persian poet says; ‘If God punishes me for doing evil by doing me evil, how is he better than I?’ And it is hard to answer, for certainly the worst man would hardly torture his enemy, if he could, for ever. And unless God has a scheme that every man is to saved for ever, it is hard to say in what He is not worse than man; for all good men would save others if they could…

It is of no use saying that God is just, unless we define what justice is. In all Christian times people have said that ‘God is just’ and have credited him with an injustice such as transcends all human injustice that it is possible to conceive." - Florence Nightingale

I have a course in Modern British History (1830-present) and we're just about to get to the Crimean War, and I was reading about Florence Nightingale who was the famous nurse. Evidently she was also a lay theologian and penned this piece on universalism.

"But as for the cowardly, the faithless,* the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death." - Revelation 21:8 (NRSV)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Objectivity of the Sacraments and Intention: How Can They Coincide?

I was reading a bit on Apostolicae Curiae (I don't think that's the correct title because those are two 1st declension genatives in Latin), anyway, it's the 1896 one that declares Anglican Holy Orders "null and void". I was also thinking about my baptism which I've written a blog on before (It was done in the Baptist Church as a believer).

Donatism is described briefly by the great Wikipedia as:

"the Donatists were rigorists, holding that the church must be a church of saints, not sinners, and that sacraments, such as baptism, administered by traditores (Christians who surrendered the Scriptures to the authorities who outlawed possession of them) were invalid. Probably in 311, a new bishop of Carthage was consecrated by someone who had allegedly been a traditor; his opponents consecrated a short-lived rival, who was succeeded by Donatus, after whom the schism was named. In 313, a commission appointed by Pope Miltiades found against the Donatists, but they continued to exist, viewing themselves, and not what was known as the Catholic Church, as the true Church, the only one with valid sacraments."

They believed that the sacrament of Penance could not remove the contamination that these clerics had brought upon themselves and that their sacraments were invalid.

Now in response to this the Catholic party declared the sacraments worked:

"The Catholic position has always been ex opere operato — from the work having been worked; in other words, that the validity of the sacrament depends upon the holiness of God, the minister being a mere instrument of God's work, so that any priest or bishop, even one in a state of mortal sin, who speaks the formula of the sacrament with valid matter and the intent of causing the sacrament to occur acts validly."

The key word here is "intent". The declaration that Holy Orders had been improperly conferred with the Anglicans was because of their intent being faulty. But the question remains, how does this not fall under at least a semi-donatist interpretation.

For example, heresy, a mortal sin if held obstinately and knowingly against Church doctrine would effect the intent of a minister. But the statement says that mortal sin doesn't effect the procuring of the sacraments. So for an example:

Fr. X is a modernist who denies the sacraments have any "magical" power and just reads the formula but doesn't actually believe anything is happening. The validity of the sacrament would not be questioned if he had been a theologically orthodox murderer, but it is questioned because he is a heretic.

This seems to be the Roman position at least up until 1896. But this seems to be full of problems, because who can know the intentions of the heart except God? Theoretically any sacrament could be called into question. I've heard Priests say "we don't baptize babies because they're sinful" (which is heresy, St. Augustine clearly shows they are born with Original Sin), so does this mean all of the baptisms done in that parish are invalid?

The issue is even further complicated when you leave the Roman fold. For example, in my baptism at the Baptist church they made a speech before I went up saying "this is just an empty symbol of his profession of faith, it does not do anything spiritual" and then I was baptized with the trinitarian formula. So the formula was right, but obviously the intention was not.

But when I consulted our Monsignor (a man who has his masters in theology with emphasis in Canon Law), he showed me the document that stated that the Fellowship Baptists of Canada have been declared by the Canadian Council of Catholic bishops as valid.

Chesterton, Tolkien, and everyone before the last 30 years or so was given conditional baptism when they converted. So what has changed since the Donatists and 1970? Has the meaning of the word intent changed?

It's a very small but important point I'm trying to figure the answer out to. For if the church declares Protestant baptisms valid in Vatican II, why don't they declare Anglican ordinations valid as well? (obviously it's useless now as they're ordaining women)

Canon Law will be the death of me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Clarification: I'm Not Leaving The Whore of Babylon

While I have criticized (I would prefer saying "questioned") some articles of Roman Catholic dogma in my posts, this is because of my desire to better understand and defend my faith. I do it in hopes that fellow Catholics will give me advice, but then the Reformed will join in the criticism and it will appear that I'm trying to revert to Protestantism.

I have no intentions of leaving Catholicism. Until someone can prove sola scriptura, sola fide, and extrinsic imputed righteousness, and solve the greatest of all problems : THE CANON! (Dun dun dun) from Scripture and Tradition, I won't have sufficient epistemological grounds for rejecting the basis of Catholicism. Certainly I will try to critique and understand all the stuff resting on the Catholic foundation, indulgences, penance, etc. But this isn't "giving in" to Protestantism, which I see as having no basis of it's own, but existing merely as a (admittedly good) critique of Catholicism.

The only way I would leave Catholicism other than those reasons being satisfied would be if my philosophical basis shifted. For example if the Brock Nietzscheans and post-moderns wore me down SO much that I'd eventually give in. Then I would become a post-modern Lutheran or Anglican, and I don't think anyone (besides Lance) wants to see that happen.

So while I may strongly dislike Catholic theology on some points, and strongly dislike all of the Catholics in my area, and strongly dislike Italy and Spain, the fact remains that I follow the logical argument, rather than my emotions.

Monday, September 21, 2009

In What Way Can Catholicism Speak of a Substitution of Christ and Us

I have a (formerly Lutheran, now Driscollite / neo-neo-calvinist) friend who said to me one night with much frustration across a kitchen table: "what do you believe the Cross even did?". I think I honestly and jokingly answered 'nothing' but I might've used a quasi-arminian "potentiality" explanation.

The problem seems to be, with all of our anti-Protestant theology we Catholics rapidly lost the ability to speak of God's efficacious grace and the salvation won on the cross as a solid theology. Rather now it seems to be a theology based on human will and potential salvation rather than divine will and efficient salvation.

As far as I can see, Catholicism objects to the notion that the Father punishes the Son for atonement of the sins of the elect, and that they instead stick with St. Anselm who phrased it more along the lines of: Christ did something good for God which we couldn't do, but which we were obligated to do. Thus somehow through baptism, penance, etc, we get that goodness (Merit?) applied to us.

Correct me if I'm wrong there.

I really want to get as close to Penal Substitution as possible within Catholic orthodoxy, because it makes me feel at ease and allows me to rest from trying to frantically accumulate merit.

It's so hard to distinguish between St. Anselm and Calvin for me. There is such a fine line when discussing what Christ did in a substitutionary manner, and what he didn't do. Like I think it's Morally, and Meritoriously proper to say Christ acted on our behalf, but not legally.... Aquinas' scholasticism confuses me at times, at least Augustine's neo-platonism was easy to get.

Then you have Hans Urs Von Balthasar who basically made Penal Substitution Catholic by saying that a finite amount of sin was placed between the infinite distance of the Father and the Son and burned up completely by their love. This is my favourite of all atonement models, and while it was taught by a fairly orthodox and highly respected Catholic theologian, many traditionalists probably dislike it because they'd say it tends towards universalism and is too similar to Penal Substitution, even though it technicaly avoids the anathemas.

If it's possible to hold Von Balthasar's Christology/Soteriology while remaining within Roman orthodoxy, then I'd like to hold it, I just don't know enough.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

This Week in Summary & Thoughts Before Mass Tonight

I'm going to a new church tonight (it's still Roman, don't get your hopes up) and I'm hoping that there's confession/reconcilliation before Mass. I've had a terrible week and my Depression had really kicked in. I think I angered everyone I know this week both online and IRL (for non-gamers this means "in real life"). Chesterton said that we don't need a religion that is right where we're right, we need one that's right where we're wrong. I said to a friend once "when I disagree with Catholicism, I get angry and yell and dispair, but eventually I realize that it's not the Church that needs to change, it's me".

I highlighted this in C.S. Lewis' "The Problem of Pain" but I just saw it quoted online by Dave Armstrong, so I figured I'd post it as I'm hoping to go to confession tonight:

"It is . . . a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up "our own" when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is "nothing better" now to be had. The same humility is shown by all those Divine appeals to our fears which trouble high-minded readers of scripture. It is hardly complimentary to God that we should choose Him as an alternative to Hell: yet even this He accepts. The creature's illusion of self-sufficiency must, for the creature's sake, be shattered; and by trouble or fear of trouble on earth, by crude fear of the eternal flames, God shatters it "unmindful of His glory's diminution." Those who would like the God of scripture to be more purely ethical, do not know what they ask.

If God were a Kantian, who would not have us till we came to Him from the purest and best motives, who could be saved? And this illusion of self-sufficiency may be at its strongest in some very honest, kindly, and temperate people, and on such people, therefore, misfortune must fall." - C.S. Lewis (The Problem of Pain, New York: Macmillan, 1940, 97-98)

Father forgive me of my sins, because of Christ, even when I repent out of fear rather than love, or rather, when they are so close together I can't separate them.

Another Good Explanation of Catholic Soteriology, Straight From Rome

"The concept of "righteousness of God" was explained in the Letter to Titus: "But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy" (Titus 3:4-5). Saying "The righteousness of God appeared," is the same as saying: The goodness of God, his love and his mercy appeared. It was not man who, all of a sudden, changed life and tradition and put himself to the task of doing good; the novelty is that God acted, he was the first to extend his hand out to sinful man, and his action fulfilled time.

Here is the novelty that distinguishes the Christian religion from any other. Any other religion draws out for man a path to salvation by means of practical observations and intellectual speculations, promising him, as a final prize, salvation and illumination, but leaving him substantially alone in achieving the task. Christianity does not begin with what man must do to save himself, but rather with what God has done to save him. The order is reversed.

It is true that to love God with all your heart is "the first and greatest of the commandments," but the commandments are not primary, they are secondary. Before the order of commandments comes the order of gift and of grace. Christianity is the religion of grace! If this is not taken into consideration in interreligious dialogue, the dialogue would be able to do no more than generate confusion and doubts in the hearts of many Christians.


Everything, then, depends on faith. But we know that there are different types of faith: There is the faith-acquiescence of the intellect, the faith-confidence, the faith-stability, as Isaiah calls it (7:9). What type of faith is addressed when talking about justification "by faith?" It addresses a special type of faith: the faith-appropriation. It does not tire me to cite in this respect a text of St. Bernard:

"But as for me, whatever is lacking in my own resources I appropriate for myself from the heart of the Lord, which overflows with mercy. My merit therefore is the mercy of the Lord. Surely I am not devoid of merit so long as he is not of mercy. And if the Lord abounds in mercy, I too must abound in merits (Psalm 119:156). But would this be my own righteousness? Lord, I will be mindful of your righteousness only. For that is also mine, since God has made you my righteousness." (St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon on the Song of Songs)"

- Fr. Cantalamessa (

more of my endless musings on justification...

"Wherefore faith itself, even when it does not work by charity [Gal 5:6], is in itself a gift of God, and the act of faith is a work pertaining to salvation, by which man yields voluntary obedience to God Himself, by assenting to and cooperating with His grace, which he is able to resist (can. v)."

(Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, ch. III, "Of Faith")

I found this on Dave Armstrong's blog, and I thought it was interesting to finally hear the magesterium talk about faith without works. To me Catholicism has a vast deal of writing about faith with works/working in love, and about Baptism, Penance, and the necessity of the sacraments. If I could have my 'dream encyclical' it would be on the issue of faith without works, repentence without the desire for confession, mortal sin, and imperfect contrition. Those are the grey areas I'm constantly asked about by new or returning Catholics.

Psychologically, I think it's impossible to be sane and hold the view that 6 days out of 7 you're going to Hell, so I've just decided that I have "special revelation" (Isn't scripture special revelation anyway?) that the fact that I have faith in Christ and that I will go to confession eventually is enough for God (possibly even more than enough). For if Catholics are so desperate about the idea that he "wills that all might be saved" and that 'all that is necessary is an act of the will' for salvation, then my will for salvation apart from any present sacrament, should be sufficient source for hope in salvation. (that is until someone quotes a mean-spirited council from the middle ages that says the exact opposite).

A Prayer of St. Anselm of Canterbury

There's alot of weird rumors about St. Anselm of Canterbury out there, liberal episcopalians try to argue that he was homosexual, and some Catholics think that when you use his atonement model you are teaching penal substitution. But either way, he is a theologian I have alot to learn from, and I enjoy this prayer of his:

"Lord Jesus Christ; Let me seek you by desiring you,
and let me desire you by seeking you;
let me find you by loving you,
and love you in finding you.

I confess, Lord, with thanksgiving,
that you have made me in your image,
so that I can remember you, think of you, and love you.

But that image is so worn and blotted out by faults,
and darkened by the smoke of sin,
that it cannot do that for which it was made,
unless you renew and refashion it.

Lord, I am not trying to make my way to your height,
for my understanding is in no way equal to that,
but I do desire to understand a little of your truth
which my heart already believes and loves.

I do not seek to understand so that I can believe,
but I believe so that I may understand;
and what is more,
I believe that unless I do believe, I shall not understand."

Friday, September 18, 2009

"We Don't Have Time For The Bible"

This is a paraphrase of something my friend Lance's dean said in their theology class at his Lutheran seminary. The man who said it studied under Alister McGrath and is an expert on Theodore Beza and "Protestant Scholasticism". I think it is a very true when it comes to Historical Theology.

I've been a Reformed Christian (for a short but happy time) and I've used Romans 3 and 9-11 to justify everything.

I've been an Anabaptist (Arminian) and used 1 Timothy 2, and 2 Peter 3:9, etc to justify everything.

I'm currently a Roman Catholic Christian and use Matthew 16 and 1 Tim 3:15 and 1 Cor 11:2, etc to justify everything.

I've been an Anglican and used my Refomed and Catholic prooftexts to justify that as well.

This is why I want to study St. Augustine, because I don't even know what to believe anymore, theology has just become an assortment of prooftexts that are crammed into a system created by a dead 16th century person. Then you name yourself after them and attack other people with different dead men.

So my only option is to find the right dead man. And everyone's dead men seem to agree that St. Augustine of Hippo was the best dead man, so I want to study him.

Catholic Soteriology summed up fairly easily

on this website I found a typical summation of Catholic soteriology called "A Catholic understanding of how grace saves" :

It seems to still be suspect to my observation that this means that grace is just the ability to do good works and merit salvation, not the absolution of sins or forgiveness which the Reformers taught it was (and which I feel in my heart more partial to still).

To me the issue no Catholic theologians want to touch is sin in the believer. Luther said "when God saves a man he doesn't do it in heaps", and if this is his characterization of Catholicism, then it's kind of true. Catholicism doesn't call Concupiscence Sin and I think has failed to understand what every priest understands: that the average Christian, is a sinner with faith and repentance, not an intrinsically righteous transformed and angelic being.

Hopefully reading some St. Augustine, De Lubac, and Von Balthasar on this will clear some stuff up.

Augustinian Soteriology

In an attempt to gain an Augustinian understanding of soteriology I'm planning on reading "On the Spirit and the Letter" ...but not in Latin. I just started skimming already this morning and found two passages interesting and almost contradictory:

"What, however, is the spirit of this world, but the spirit of pride? ... they too are deceived, who, while ignorant of the righteousness of God, and wishing to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to God's righteousness...we conclude that a man is not justified by the precepts of a holy life, but by faith in Jesus Christ—in a word, not by the law of works, but by the law of faith; not by the letter, but by the spirit; not by the merits of deeds, but by free grace." - Chapter 22, "On the Spirit and the Letter"

Now this is probably quoted in the Formulas of Concord or something and sounds REALLY Lutheran, but look at the next quote:

"Now He that has wrought us for the self-same thing is God, who also has given unto us the earnest of the Spirit; 2 Corinthians 5:5 and after a little he thus briefly draws the conclusion of the matter: That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 This is not the righteousness whereby God is Himself righteous, but that whereby we are made righteous by Him." - Chapter 31 "On the Letter and the Spirit, St. Augustine of Hippo

That is a passage the Council of Trent quotes on Justification against the Lutheran doctrine of Imputed Righteousness.

So what the Hell is St. Augustine trying to say?! I'm going to try to figure out... and if he teaches Luther's view of Justification I'll leave the Roman church, but for some strange reason, I don't think he's going to. Knowing my luck, he'll teach some weird hybrid of both that will leave me forever guessing.

The next book I'll have to read after this is Henri De Lubac's "Augustinianism and Modern Theology" where he critiques both Jansenism and (I think) St. Thomas Aquinas doctrines that seem to be "pure nature" without grace.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tonight At Bible Study...

Tonight I was at bible study with a fellow Roman Catholic. We were studying St. John's Gospel 11-14 and when he was asking about mortal sin and contrition, after outlining what the Catechism taught on the subject I just said "we can't even know our own contrition and whether it is perfect or not, as all human love is in some way self-interested" or something to that extent. I looked it up in Pelikan's Reformation history and that was a preliminary thesis of Martin Luther against Penance/Confession and the same idea that Abp of Canterbury Rowan Williams taught in his sermon on loving God and why the Catholic doctrine of "Pure Love" was wrong.

I told him that Scripture is all about Law and Gospel and that the Law is supposed to bring us to repentance knowing that there's no way we can earn our way to Heaven, and that the Catholic theology of the cross was empty and that Catholicism glorifies and protects "Free Will" to the point of idolatry and that this is the Jesuits fault. So basically I taught Lutheranism and Jansenism, I don't know what's happening to me.

I also said that God didn't have to respect anyone's free will when we discussed Judas and that he was an unelect reprobate whom God had not chosen and had been a thief anyway and that when he took communion it said "satan entered him" and that when we take communion unworthily (I might've said 'when the reprobate' take communion) it is drinking God's wrath upon themselves (Jared's/Reformed theology).

I mocked the necessity of Marian Dogmas and said they were superfluous.

I told him that all the canon law in the world was meaningless if we didn't have a positive and living faith rather than just a set of rules.

I've been hugely influenced by Luther's dichotemy of the Theologian of Glory versus the Theologian of the Cross.

I'm still a Catholic I guess, and I can refute all of my own arguments. But it just made me sick to think how unsure our salvation is in Catholic soteriology, how all of it depends on man's will and not God's grace. Even now I could argue against it in my head with Catholic/Arminian prooftexts but it just feels wrong. In the end I just want to have the Christianity of St. Augustine...

Sorry I'm probably committing the sin of scandal, and making the Catholics angry, but such is the reality of my life, I'm constantly unable to figure out how on earth I'll ever be sure about my least I know I'll never be an Anabaptist again.

I think I was just really tired, and the fact is that I read and heard so much from Reformed, Arminian, Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic, and Orthodox sources that they all start to blend and make sense in their own ways and I lose my dogmatism.

I took some theology tests and I got St. Augustine as my #1 and then Karl Barth (whom I've never read).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Finally A Catholic Christology/Soteriology! - Von Balthasar On Salvation

I've finally found some decent writing by a Roman Catholic Theologian whom Pope Benedict XVI called "the most learned man in Europe", and who was a Cardinal of the Church. Most importantly Hans Urs Von Balthasar makes it sound like the Cross actually accomplished something! Obviously this illicited charges of heresy as he believed something as revolutionary to Catholicism as "for us men and for our salvation he became man...[and] was crucified"... it's not like we say that every week in the Nicene Creed...

On the Crucifixion he writes:

"But we can still ask why this particular murder, after so many others, should be the conclusive event of world history, the advent of the end time? Men have cast their guilt onto many innocent scapegoats; why did this particular bearer of sins bring about a change in the world as a whole?


The crucial thing is that there is Someone who is both ready and able to take their guilt upon himself. None of the other scapegoats was able to do this. According to the New Testament understanding, the Son of God became man in order to take this guilt upon himself. He lived with a view to the “hour” that awaited him at the end of his earthly existence, with a view to the terrible baptism with which he would have to be baptized, as he says. This “hour” would see him chained and brought to trial not merely outwardly; it would not only tear his body to pieces with scourges and nail it to the wood but also penetrate into his very soul, his spirit, his most intimate relationship with God, his Father. It would fill everything with desolation and the mortal fear of having been forsaken—as it were, with a totally alien, hostile and deadly poisonous substance that would block his every access to the source from which he lived.

It is in the horror of this darkness, of this emptiness and alienation from God, that the words on the Mount of Olives are spoken: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. ” The cup of which he here speaks is well known in the Old Testament: it is the cup full of God’s anger and wrath, which sinners must drink to the dregs; often it is threatened or forced upon unfaithful Jerusalem or enemy peoples like Babylon. The cry from the Cross is uttered out of the same horror of spiritual blackness, the cry asking why God has forsaken this tortured man. The man who cries out knows only that he is forsaken; in this darkness he no longer knows why. He is not permitted to know why, for the idea that the darkness he is undergoing might be on behalf of others would constitute a certain comfort; it would give him a ray of light. No such comfort can be granted him now, for the issue, in absolute seriousness, is that of purifying the relationship between God and the guilty world.

The man who endures this night is the Innocent One. No one else could effectively undergo it on behalf of others. What ordinary or extraordinary man would even have enough room in himself to accommodate the world’s guilt? Only someone who is a partner of the eternal Father, distinct from him and yet divine, that is, the Son who, man that he is, is also God, can have such capacity within him.

Here we are faced with a bottomless mystery, for in fact there is an immense difference between the generating womb in God the Father and the generated fruit, the Son, although both are one God in the Holy Spirit. Nowadays many theologians say, quite rightly, that it is precisely at the Cross that this difference becomes clearly manifest: at this precise point the mystery of the divine Trinity is fully proclaimed. The distance is so great—for in God everything is infinite—that there is room in it for all the alienation and sin of the world; the Son can draw all this into his relationship with the Father without any danger of it harming or altering the mutual eternal love between Father and Son in the Holy Spirit. Sin is burnt up, as it were, in the fire of this love, for God, as Scripture says, is a consuming fire that will not tolerate anything impure but must burn it away.

Jesus, the Crucified, endures our inner darkness and estrangement from God, and he does so in our place. It is all the more painful for him, the less he has merited it. As we have already said, there is nothing familiar about it to him: it is utterly alien and full of horror. Indeed, he suffers more deeply than an ordinary man is capable of suffering, even were he condemned and rejected by God, because only the incarnate Son knows who the Father really is and what it means to be deprived of him, to have lost him (to all appearances) forever. It is meaningless to call this suffering “hell”, for there is no hatred of God in Jesus, only a pain that is deeper and more timeless than the ordinary man could endure either in his lifetime or after his death.

Nor can we say that God the Father “punishes” his suffering Son in our place. It is not a question of punishment, for the work accomplished here between Father and Son with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit is utter love, the purest love possible; so, too, it is a work of the purest spontaneity, from the Son’s side as from the side of Father and Spirit. God’s love is so rich that it can also assume this form of darkness, out of love for our dark world.

What, then, can we do? “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.” It was as if the cosmos sensed that something decisive was going on here, as if it were participating in the darkness invading the soul of Christ. For our part, we do not need to experience this darkening, for we are already estranged and dark enough. It would suffice if we held onto our faith in a world that has become dark all around us; it would be enough for us to be convinced that all inner light, all inner joy and security, all trust in life owes its existence to the darkness of Golgotha and never to forget to give God thanks for it.

At the very periphery of this thanksgiving to God, it is legitimate to ask that, if God permits it, we may help the Lord to bear a tiny particle of the suffering of the Cross, of his inner anxiety and darkness, if it will contribute to reconciling the world with God. Jesus himself says that it is possible to help him bear it when he challenges us to take up our cross daily. Paul says the same in affirming that he suffers that portion of the Cross that Christ has reserved for him and for other Christians. When life is hard and apparently hopeless, we can be confident that this darkness of ours can be taken up into the great darkness of redemption through which the light of Easter dawns. And when what is required of us seems too burdensome, when the pains become unbearable and the fate we are asked to accept seems simply meaningless—then we have come very close to the man nailed on the Cross at the Place of the Skull, for he has already undergone this on our behalf and, moreover, in unimaginable intensity. When surrounded by apparent meaninglessness, therefore, we cannot ask to be given a calming sense of meaning; all we can do is wait and endure, quite still, like the Crucified, not seeing anything, facing the dark abyss of death. Beyond this abyss there waits for us something that, at present, we cannot see (nor can we even manage to regard it as true), namely, a further abyss of light in which all the world’s pain is treasured and cherished in the ever-open heart of God. Then we shall be allowed, like the Apostle Thomas, to put our hand into this gaping wound; feeling it, we shall realize in a very bodily way that God’s love transcends all human senses, and with the disciple we shall pray: “My Lord and my God.” - Hans Urs von Balthasar, "You Crown the Year With Your Goodness: Sermons Through the Liturgical Year"

Grace and Faith in Catholicism

To clarify questions that some readers might have, I do believe in salvation by grace alone, but this is equivocation if understood in the way the Reformers viewed grace. Grace for Catholics is God's unmerited help or gift, it is like a movement or energy or work of the Holy Spirit in the soul of the individual. So grace is like the life of the soul and so Salvation is by grace alone.

Faith in Catholicism is not understood as the Reformers taught. Protestantism says that saving faith is fiducia, more accurately in English: trust. In Catholicism, faith is the assent of the will to the divine revelation of God. So at my Baptist baptism I had to say that I had a personal faith/trust in Jesus, but in my Roman Catholic Confirmation I had to say "I believe and profess all that the the Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed of God". Both are statements of faith, but very different.

This becomes relevant when you look at a verse like:

"Abraham believed God and it was creditted to him as righteousness"

Was Abraham justified because he trusted in God's character, or because he believed the promises of God to make him into a great nation.

The book I really want to read on this issue is Hans Urs Von Balthasar's "The Theology of Karl Barth" where he defends the Catholic view of Grace.

Orthodox Catholic Theologians: Do They Exist?

-Karl Rahner (SJ) has been called a post-modern modalist.

-Hans Urs Von Balthasar (SJ) has been accused of teaching Penal Substitution and universalism.

-Henri de Lubac (SJ) was forbidden to teach or publish theology for 9 years by the Jesuits because of a controversial work.

-Yves Congar (OP) was removed from teaching or publishing for a while because of his ecumenism and promotion of openness to some Protestant ideas.

All of those men were given the chance to become Cardinals (the 2nd highest office in Catholicism) and some of them took it. They have been called some of the most influential Roman Catholic theologians in the 20th century. And yet at the same time they are charged with heresy.

At first this scared and troubled me and I didn't want to read them. But then I realized this is ridiculous, these men are heroes of the faith and people are mindlessly slandering them, even Protestants read them for their brilliance (the Anglicans especially).

There are a few Orthodox Catholic theologians who as far as I've heard are completely legit, but probably more boring:

Pope Benedict XVI (obviously - he was the head of our Inquisit-I mean congregation of faith, and our Pope)

Etienne Gilson

Jacques Maritain

Scott Hahn and Peter Kreeft are both questioned greatly about their orthodoxy, but probably because they explain things from a Protestant framework (and possibly because Kreeft *kind of* teaches Protestant Soteriology a bit...sometimes)

What I really want to understand is Catholic soteriology, but the problem seems to be that as soon as a Catholic theologian claims something significant happened in the crucifixion he's accused of penal substitution and Protestantism.

Sola Gratia - Catholicism Doesn't Teach It

Intro Story:
A professor I have for Reformation History this year is a scholar in the history of Martin Luther's early theology and early Lutheranism. I was telling him (because I'm an arrogant 20 something) last year when he taught the British Reformation that Luther's theology was based on sola fide, faith alone. He told me that he disagreed and that the real problem Rome had with his theology was Sola Gratia, Grace Alone. I quickly repeated something I'd learned from many Catholic apologetics websites, that Catholicism has always taught salvation is by grace alone. Frustrated, he gave up trying to explain to me why I was wrong and we parted ways (I just thought he was another confused Mennonite).

Today I was looking up a word in Wheelock's Latin and found the definition:

gratia, -ae, f., gratitude, favor

I had learned that Protestantism taught that grace was God's favor and that Catholicism defined it as God's help through the Holy Spirit (if you want more detail, read the 10 page treatise on it in the Catholic Encyclopedia).

Now Catholicism has it's super-ecclesiology, patristics, and canon-making powers that Protestantism can't touch. I view Protestantism as a nice house built on no foundation (sola scriptura) or rather built on a Catholic foundation, but I also view Catholicism as a foundation with an extremely ugly building. Or for another analogy, Protestantism is a parasite, it can only survive by clinging to and degenerating Catholicism.

Having said that, I must say that their conception of grace does sound alot nicer, you are saved, simply because Christ died for you and God isn't angry at anyone anymore if they believe in Jesus. God's unmerited favor is the cause of your salvation according to the Reformers. "Grace abolishes Merit"

Grace in Catholicism:

The Catholic/Thomistic understanding that "Grace perfects Nature" means that grace allows you to do good works which is your nature as the image of God. But grace is resistible, and sufficient grace for salvation is universal. So in the end, salvation is based on human response. Theoretically, if no one chose God, no one would be saved, Christ or no Christ. As well, as soon as you've committed a mortal sin (which probably happens every week if not sooner), then that universal grace has been killed in your soul. So basically Catholicism teaches that everyone gets 1 chance, and then after that, they do the work of going to Confession and they get another chance. If you die with a chance left then you go to Heaven. If you die without a chance left, you go to hell.

It's kind of like a giant egg race. God helps those who help themselves was the medieval phrase.

Or to use another analogy. Imagine the difference between these two scenarios. In Protestantism, you're Paris Hilton with your dad's credit card, you can spend as much as you want and he still thinks your just a silly little starlet. In Catholicism, you work in a coal mine, your dad got you the job, and if you screw up you get fired, and slowly little by little you accumulate your own money. In both cases you didn't deserve the job, so it's technically by grace, but one is definately grace alone, and the other is definately grace and works.

So as a Catholic I'm going to have to suggest to other Catholics that we stop teaching that people are saved purely by grace, or by grace alone. Because it's kind of sophistry and doublespeak to say we affirm "sola gratia". It's kind of like when we say we're saved by faith and love - and then when push comes to shove, love actually just means works. So we should just say faith and works. Another Catholic trick is to say that all of our works come from God's grace, which is to use the coal mine analogy, like saying that the 1 dollar a week I make is a gift, because there's plenty of starving children out there who would kill for a chance to work in a coal mine like I get to.

Just a suggestion....

" the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened" - Romans 11:5-6

"Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.’ ‘See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work." - Revelation 22:11-12


... the clarity of scripture shines once again in blatant contradictions (*read antinomies) ... Now I know why C.S. Lewis said that God hadn't given us the answers to the questions of the Reformation...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Funny Calvinist Video

Today I met 2 Professors who were Calvinists and we have to read Barth for philosophy and Calvin in the Reformation History class I have. So I was all Calvin'd out today and I thought it'd be funny to link this clip that has circulated alot already online:

I saw this weeks ago, but I figured I should post it. I like it when the preacher just shouts "who are you to reply to the lord in sin did your mother concieve you"

I should try using that some day when witnessing...

Lutheranism & Catholicism (Part 1): Law and Gospel vs. Justice and Mercy

"From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. - John 1:16-18

"You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’, also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement." - James 2:8-13


This sunday at the FSSP Latin Mass the priest gave a sermon about the Resurrection of the body and basically just read a sermon Greg the Great wrote about it in the 6th century. Papa Greg the Great said that Christ died so we didn't have to fear death, and was risen so we could hope to share in his resurrection. (Paul had already said as much in the reading). But the sermon included this faith and hope in Christ for mercy and grace, as well as the moral exortation to seek God's mercy through penitence now, while you still can. It was one of the rare times I'd heard the preaching of Law and Gospel (Lutheranism) / Justice and Mercy (Catholicism) in a Catholic Church, albeit in a slightly confused manner.


The other day on my way home from PEI and I was reading Pelikan's Church History on the Reformation and specifically on "Law and Gospel". I really like the idea, and I feel like it's in a way (not completely, but similar) the same message as the medieval catholics like Bernard preached about loving God, but at the same time begging God to trust that "God's mercies are my merits" (St. Bernard of Clairvaux said that).


I like Lutheranism alot (more Melancthon than Luther) but there are definately problems I see in it (as it is formally a heresy according to my church). The biggest problem is Luther's understanding of God. He always sees God first as hateful, angry, and full of wrath. I think this is why for him the doctrine of imputation was so important.

However, it's paramount to remember James 2:13 "mercy triumphs over judgment", and even the Old Testament's constant repetition of the formula: "slow to anger, abounding in love".

I think this is a difference between Lutheranism and Catholicism. That we begin with this God who is slow to anger and abounding in love and mercy, not willing that any should perish, whom will not impute men's sins to them if they seek his mercy (moved by grace to be sure). The verses surrounding that passage in John about law and gospel are really important as well, because they show that we have received "grace upon grace" which in my exegesis shows how grace is not merely a disposition within God, but his actual help through the Spirit.

That's where St. James comes in to remind us that Christ is in 1 sense a lawgiver, which is what separates us from the Lutherans as well, and that sense is the dual command of love. This love is what St. Paul calls "the torah of Christ" or the law of Christ.

Thus, to me, these are biblical reasons for preferring the Catholic teaching of Justice and Mercy over the Law and Gospel distinction. Though at the end of the day, in a pragmatic sense, it amounts to the same message.

"slow to anger, and abounding in love" (num 14:18)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Strongest Defense of Reformed Theology

I came home on lunch break and opened my bible to read something and the first verse I see is: "God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus" - 1 Th. 5:9

Predestination is an amazingly biblical doctrine, it's everywhere. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, "there is no greater Predestinarian than Paul in Romans 9 to 11". After being a Calvinist for a while (some will contest whether I ever was), I found the doctrine very biblical, pastoral, and most importantly (joke) very Augustinian. Reading Pelikan, it's funny he says that the pseudo-Augustine triumphed over the real Augustine in the predestinarian controversy in the 9th century. It's probably the only area I would concede to the Presbyterians that they are more Augustinian than we are on.

So while I am happily Roman Catholic, if I had to find the strongest opposition to Catholicism, I'd be a Calvinist in the Anglican Church. Then you get the strength of Anglo-Catholic ecclesiology, with the strength of Calvin's doctrine of predestination.

... I talk about theologies as if they are fighting robots or something.

Clarifications on Plurality in Catholic Dogma, Judging Others, and Refusing Christ's Church

Here are some clarifications I wanted to make because of the comments I received on the last post. I don't know who the anonymous commenter was, but I'll have to respond to them as well.

Is There A Plurality In Catholic Dogma?
An FSSP (orthodox Traditional) priest once told me that I shouldn't listen to what priests or for that matter Catholics say on something, I should just go to the Catechism and the Creeds. As I noted in the last blog, there are Cardinals who have heterodox views (universalism is a tricky situation because I don't know if Hell has ever been ecumenically defined as having people in it, but I assume there is and that he didn't voice these views till AFTER he became a Cardinal). Hans Kung is a classic example of someone who is a modernist protestant Catholic priest. He has openly written a book against the infallibility of the Papacy, denies almost every Marian doctrine, grossly misrepresents the Council of Trent as being somehow Protestant/Reformed, and criticizes all of the Churches sexual ethics, and much more. His status as a Catholic professor has been removed, but has he been excommunicated? No. Has the Pope openly denounced him as a heretic? No (Ratzinger kindly did in nicer words while he was still an Archbishop).

So the problem people seem to have is that the Roman Catholic Church only officially teaches from Rome, and many others around the world, even those within her walls, deny the Dogmas. The Church couldn't keep up with all the heretical claims if it tried. This is why always going from the Catechism is necessary. There really isn't alot of plurality in Catholicism officially, just practically.

Am I Condemning You?
Rev. Jay Bennett asked a really good question since I always get tired of him condemning me: "are you condemning me?". To answer this I will say: the Church is condemning you, I am merely restating what the Church says. I think there IS a difference here. For example, when I asked Rev. Bennett about the Presbyterian view on the status of the Catholic Church he kindly showed me the Westminster Confession which teaches that the Pope is the Anti-Christ. If I asked an Anglican what he thought of my Church, he could go to the 39 Articles and say that it has most certainly erred in matters of faith. So lets not act as if Catholicism is the only religion claiming exclusivity, Christianity is inherently exclusive.

But all of this is greatly different from saying "You personally are condemned by God and out of his grace". I can't know that, but I'm not going to pull the relativistic Catholic response of "God isn't limitted to the sacraments" and then NOT tell you about what the Roman Church teaches on those who wilfully reject the sacraments.

Canonically I've heard that Protestants are considered Material Heretics (there's Aristotle again) and if they are invincibly ignorant, not necessarily considered outside of a state of grace. But if they learn about Catholicism and wilfully reject it, they become Formal Heretics. I need to learn what the Orthodox are considered to help shed light on the full meaning of this.

Refusing Christ's Church Wilfully:

Jesus when he sends the 70 in St. Luke's Gospel (10:16) says to the missionaries:

"‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’"

Catholics as well as Orthodox Christian understand this to be a part of the phrase of St. Cyprian "Outside the Church There Is No Salvation". If you reject the Church you are rejecting Christ, as St. Joan of Arc said famously, they are one and the same thing.

Invincible Ignorance:

Here's the definition which I cannot seem to understand:

"So far as fixing human responsibility, the most important division of ignorance is that designated by the terms invincible and vincible. Ignorance is said to be invincible when a person is unable to rid himself of it notwithstanding the employment of moral diligence, that is, such as under the circumstances is, morally speaking, possible and obligatory. This manifestly includes the states of inadvertence, forgetfulness, etc. Such ignorance is obviously involuntary and therefore not imputable. On the other hand, ignorance is termed vincible if it can be dispelled by the use of "moral diligence"." - Catholic Encyclopedia on "Ignorance"

I'm not a good judge of this, as I've been Catholic all of 6 months or so, but I would assume theology students like Matt and Jay are not invincibly ignorant.


So terrible as it is, I believe the gospel forces me to affirm with Christ that anyone who rejects his true representatives rejects him. It is a matter of Christ's authority, from which the Church derives her authority, and the Church is visible, for otherwise how could Christ command us to "If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church" (Matt. 18:17 - Thank you Pelikan for that handy prooftext).

Thus I hope everyone comes to penitance and is saved, but that is up to Christ, I can only obey his word, which teaches me to obey his Church.

And I'm hoping to be a Jesuit, so having everyone pissed off at me, is probably good training.

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Traditionalist, a Pelagian, and a Modernist Walk into a bar...

"No one can find salvation except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Church you can find everything except salvation. You can have dignities, you can have Sacraments, you can sing "alleluia", answer "Amen", have faith in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and preach it too; But never can you find salvation except in the Catholic Church." - St. Augustine of Hippo

"There is indeed one universal church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved, in which Jesus Christ is both priest and sacrifice." - 4th Lateran Council. 1215 C.E.

"Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins." - Unam Sanctam. 1302 C.E.

"This holy Council first of all turns its attention to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself on scripture and tradition, it teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk. 16:16; John 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it" - Vatican II "Lumen Gentium"

A Traditionalist, A Modernist, and A Pelagian Analysis

Catholic doctrine hasn't changed after Vatican II despite what you may have been told by your local modernists. When the Church says that there is no salvation outside the Church, it is important to note that if you have a Trinitarian baptism, you have been "saved" and are within the Church. But the Magesterium also teaches that those who are invincibly ignorant of Catholicism are not to be held accountable of it, and that "somehow" (Key word) people outside the visible boundaries of the Roman Church are able to be saved as well. Thus it was taught to young Irish immigrants that their Anglican neighbours were still loved by God because they didn't mean to commit the sin of schism. That is the acceptable doctrine of invincible ignorance. But a Traditionalist would probably say that if you've read this blog you are no longer invincibly ignorant (sorry for damning my Protestant readers, in the words of the Baptists: "Turn or Burn"). I've never heard an orthodox Catholic answer to the question: what if someone dies in repentance of their sin but refuses still to acknowledge the Catholic Church as valid and does not desire her absolution even though they know what she claims to be. I'm assuming the answer is that they are not saved.

Then another Catholic might say God "Freely accepts those who do what is right and fear him" (To quote St. Peter in his speech to Cornelius). They might say that Jews and even "godly pagans" are saved because they are doing good works. The idea that those who do good works outside of Christ are rewarded with Heaven is the Pelagian heresy. Now in this view's defense they might say that it is only semi-pelagianism in that all good works of humans come from grace. But I would quote Hebrews to say "without faith it is impossible to please him" and quote Romans to say "how can they believe in Him whom they have not heard of". So I don't think ordinarily those outside Christendom are saved, but who knows, it's up to God.

Finally you will find the modernist, even at the highest levels of our Church. For example, take the former president of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor who is a universalist. And his universalism isn't even based on scripture, tradition, or reason, no he's with Wesley on this in giving credence to emotions. He says he believes all will be saved because it will make him feel better in Heaven.

So there you have it, a cross-section of the whore that is our Church, and yet our mother (To quote St. Augustine).

Mortal Sin:

"And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. If you see your brother or sister* committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one—to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal. We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them. " - 1 John 5:14-18

The list of mortal sins is traditionally the list Jesus gives to the rich young ruler when he says "do this and live" in St. Luke's gospel. But Catholic moral theology holds that for a mortal sin to occur, it has to be a grave matter, with full knowledge of it's sinfulness, and full assent of the will.

So in regards to a question someone asked, yes if you are a baptized Protestant and have sinned gravely and willfully (I know I do this weekly), then according to Catholic teaching you have killed God's grace in your soul, and St. John the Divine says that people shouldn't even pray for you (though I'd pray for you anyway).

So seek priestly absolution (Jn 20:23), or persist in arrogance and heresy. Those are the mean-spirited, harsh, and unpastoral words I am obligated to say by Canon Law.

May God have mercy on our souls.

Peter Kreeft: Oh How The Mighty Have Fallen

As I read more and more Catholic theology on non-Protestant issues like the Sacrifice of the Mass, Penance, and Sacramentology I think more and more that Dr. Peter Kreeft is outside the realm of Catholic orthodoxy and that he is either unknowingly an Arminian Protestant or a Jansenist. He teaches Penal Subsitution as a Catholic atonement model, and refuses to mention the necessity of the sacraments when writing a book on God's love. In his commentary on the Catechism, "Catholic Christianity" he seems to accept Mortal Sin, but tends to say that as long as you're sorry, then you aren't condemned. I don't mean to single Kreeft out too much, because most modern Catholics will say similar things, but the problem is that Trent - the byword of all Christendom - is still Magesterial teaching. So in the spirit of Catholic Traditionalism and ungrace, I'll roll out some statements Kreeft makes and then quote Trent so that you, the reader, can decide.

Salvation without the Sacraments, or even desire of them:

"The only thing that can keep us out of Heaven is not sin but refusal to accept God's cure...God does it all, in Christ; we only have to accept it...Faith saves us, but good works follow" - Peter Kreeft "The God Who Loves You" p. 156-7

"CANON XXIX.-If any one saith, that he, who has fallen after baptism... is able indeed to recover the justice which he has lost, but by faith alone without the sacrament of Penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and universal Church-instructed by Christ and his Apostles-has hitherto professed, observed, and taught; let him be anathema."

Assurance of Salvation:

This one I admit isn't as clear and he could be using that prized Catholic doublespeak we all enjoy, because Aquinas teaches we can have assurance, but only in God's goodness and only in hope not certainty of receiving grace.

"...[Jesus'] Spirit will give me that absolute certainty personally [of salvation] if I ask Him...just as Jesus promised He would for all who ask" Peter Kreeft "The God Who Loves You" p. 195

"CANON XVI.-If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema."

The Reformation

He then trivializes the Reformation to a point I think ridiculous, though with the way our Pontiffs have been speaking these days, you'd think Bellarmine didn't understand Calvin or that it was all an honest mistake. They knew, they disagreed, they condemned and killed each other over the differences.

"...the most liberating idea I have ever heard I first learned from Martin Luther. Pope John Paul II told the German bishops that Luther was profoundly right about this idea. He said that Catholic teaching affirms it just as strongly and that there was no contradiction between Protestant and Catholic theology on this terribly important point, which was the central issue of the Protestant Reformation. I speak, of course, about "justification by faith" and its consequence, which Luther called "Christian liberty" or "the liberty of a Christian" in his gem of an essay by that name" - Peter Kreeft "The God Who Loves You" p. 23

"CANON XIX.-If any one saith, that nothing besides faith is commanded in the Gospel; that other things are indifferent, neither commanded nor prohibited, but free...let him be anathema"

Kreeft has probably twisted the words of JPII (I can't check as he has no citation), and it is Catholic doublespeak in that he doesn't say "justification by faith ALONE" just like all the Catholics are doing today, and I think it's dishonest.


The Protestant gospel is centred on this truth: the only thing necessary for salvation is fiducia (trusting faith without love) in Christ and that God will forgive you because of Christ. This is salvation by grace (not God's help or work within the soul, but his loving disposition) alone for them.

This is where Catholics and Protestants have disagreed 'yesterday, today, and forever'. This is the same deceit we see in the Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on Justification. What is faith? What is grace? What is justification? Even a preliminary inquiry into the differences we have here will tell you that we do not agree.

If JPII and Catholicism throughout the ages believe in sola fide and sola gratia IN THE SENSE THAT THE REFORMERS DID (as we have our own teaching on faith alone and grace alone but in Catholic language), the obvious question is: why do we still have the penitential system, purgatory, doctrine of merit, canonized saints, mariology, etc. The reason we still have those, is because we do not believe that a man is justified by faith alone without baptism or the desire of baptism.

Tolkien said rightly in a letter to his son: "It was against this [transubstantiation] that the W. European revolt (or Reformation) was really launched – 'the blasphemous fable of the Mass' – and faith/works a mere red herring."

Now he is speaking specifically here about the Eucharist, which makes the point debatable, but it is a traditional Catholic view that the Reformation was a revolt against the sacramental system. In fact, many Protestants would probably agree. I think this is why Kreeft is wrong.

I feel bad if I've mistreated Peter Kreeft who was so influential in my conversion, but I genuinely think he's giving people a false view of Catholicism and the Sacraments. God is not limited to them, but he ordinarily works through them.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pelikan, Waugh, & Williams - Thoughts on Vacation Reading

I'm almost done Volume 4 "Reformation of Church and Dogma" by Jaroslav Pelikan. I read a big chunk of it on my vacation this last week, and I've really enjoyed it. I didn't want to read anything about Zwingli or any more about Calvin (no offense), but I pushed on through that part and got to Trent which I thoroughly enjoyed. I feel like Pelikan is the most objective historian out there. He doesn't single-mindedly affirm any position really, and he puts in really interesting facts about them. I never knew how big an impact Zwingli and the Remonstrants (or was it Anti-Remonstrants?) / Arminians had on the Reformed Tradition. I also felt more and more that Luther was much more Catholic than any of the other Reformers. I don't know which one of Pelikan's Dogmatic histories to read next. I've done 3 and now am finishing 4, but I really don't care about the East/Orthodox (typical Catholic) and I don't know if his book on modern theology (Volume 5, 1700-present) includes any Catholic stuff, so I might get his 1st volume.

I bought and finished reading "Brideshead Revisited" by Evelyn Waugh. I really enjoyed it. It had been so long since I read fiction that it was refreshing. The way he writes characters and how realistic everything seems is almost eerie. Granted it wasn't the most exciting book in the world, but I still heartily enjoyed it. There were alot of great Catholic moments that made it a bit of an indulgence into my fantasy world: English Catholicism from 1850-1950 (the only area of modern history I would consider doing history graduate work in).

Finally, I'm almost finished reading "A Ray of Darkness" by Rowan Williams (written before he was Archbishop of Canterbury). As I was reading them I remarked that it was the weirdest author I've ever read in that within the same paragraph I could highlight an idea I completely agreed with, and another idea I absolutely hated. Abp. Williams had that Anglican/Anglo-Catholic style I love where they teach the Catholic and Protestant doctrines and then show how both of them are in a way wrong and then propose some new idea or middle ground. His theology is so strange, because he cites almost exclusively Roman Catholic authors (Hans Urs Von Balthasar for example), and pre-reformation (Catholic?) mystics like St. John of the Cross, and St. Teresa of Avila. He seems to have no Protestant thinkers outside John Donne (a former Catholic) that influence his theology (obviously there are some, but he never cites them). His deeply personal and poetic style has taught me alot about homiletics (even just by reading), and I have much more respect for him. Some sermons in the collection were great and I've highlighted almost all of them, and others are just empty modernism and mockery towards any Christian claiming to have absolute truth. All in all I've enjoyed it though, and I think I'll continue to read him.

I'd recommend all these books.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Predestination & Free Will in Catholicism - Understanding Efficacious Grace

I got asked the question about Predestination as I did a bible study with a fellow Catholic on John 10. Molinism seems to be the easiest explanation, but at the same time, I didn't want to give in because I want to be a Thomist.

So I said I'd get back to him, and I read this and thought that I could be a Thomist or a Congruist.

I made this chart to help place theologies on a spectrum:

Two blog posts I've found quite helpful are these:

"All Catholics, as we have seen, believe in the necessity of grace for all supernatural acts, and therefore also, since God desires the salvation of all, they hold that He offers to all grace, really and abundantly sufficient for their salvation. They further maintain that the will always remains free to reject grace or to correspond with it. But when we inquire into the nature of the distinction between efficacious and sufficient grace, Catholic theologians give different answers. We begin with a general definition which may suffice for the understanding of the question in dispute. A sufficient grace is one which merely enables the soul to perform a supernatural act; an efficacious grace is one which does really effect the purposes for which it is given. Thus Judas received sufficient, Peter efficacious, grace for conversion: in other words, grace was given capable of converting Judas, but to Peter grace which actually did convert him. The question is, whence does the effi cacity of grace proceed ?

The Dominican theologians defend what is usually called the Thomist system of grace, because those who hold it allege that it is in substance to be found in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. This theory may be stated in the following propositions:—

(1) Second causes act only so far as they are determined to act by the first cause—i.e. God. Hence it is not enough to say that the power to work out our salvation comes from God. He also moves to the good action itself, and the existence of two kinds of grace must be admitted—viz. sufficient, which merely enables the recipient to act; and efficient, which is always followed by, and, indeed, produces the action.

(2) God sincerely wishes all men to be saved, and offers to all the means of salvation. But He wishes some to be saved absolutely, and considering all the circumstances ; others, only on certain conditions which are not realised. To the latter He gives sufficient, to the former efficacious, grace.

(3) In either case grace is given without any claim or merit on man's part.

(4) There is an intrinsic ditference between sufficient and efficacious grace— i.e. between the graces in themselves—so that it is always true to say that a man consented to grace given because it was efficacious: never true that the grace was efficacious because the man consented.

(5) Man always remains free and capable of merit under efficacious grace: free and responsible for his demerit with merely sufficient grace. For God as the first cause in no way interferes with the second cause, but, on the contrary, moves each second cause according to it's nature, so that beings with free will do not cease to be free because efficaciously moved by God. Sufficient grace gives full power to act, so that a man is perfectly responsible if he does not exert the power; while efficacious grace leaves perfect power of resistance. The reader will perceive the extreme difficulty, or, as the adversaries of Thoniism would say, the impossibility of reconciling this last with the foregoing propositions; but the fact that the Thomists do honestly hold the last proposition places a wide gulf between Thomism on the one hand, Calvinism and Jansenism on the other.

The three first of the Thomist propositions are admitted by that large number of Jesuit theologians known as Congruists, but they make the efficacity of grace depend, not on anything in the grace itself, but on the fact that it is given under circumstances which, as God foresees, are suitable to the dispositions of the recipient. He foreknows what all creatures would do in all possible circumstances—in what combination of circumstances they would accept or reject grace. If He decrees their predestination absolutely he gives them grace in circumstances under which they will certainly correspond to it; otherwise He confers grace which is in it self perfectly sufficient, but which they will certainly reject. Congruism has the advantage of admitting the full force of scriptural texts which attribute the whole difference between sinner and saint to the grace of God, while at the same time there is no difficulty in reconciling it with belief in the freedom of the will." -Thomas Arnold "A Catholic Dictionary" p 383-384

I now feel I understand this issue much better, and I will tell him that as a Thomist I believe that God gives his elect efficacious grace which they accept (even though they could reject it) and so are preserved by God and he knows them by name. While they can reject his efficacious grace, they don't because it goes against their nature which God is making righteous, in the same way that a person's nature is to sleep after a long day at work, even though theoretically they could stay up all night.

I could also say to him that as a Congruist I believe that God ordains a world in which his elect will accept his efficacious grace and that the choice of their will makes it infallibly efficacious which ultimately was changed by the circumstances of creation which God brought about in the first place.